It works both ways; you know…you probably don’t think on this too often, though. It’s part of our instinct. We don’t have to think about it. Long ago our ancestors began inscribing their feats on the walls of caves. Our history is preserved by carving onto animal bones, painted on canvas, chiseled into stone, chemically developed onto paper, and digitized into computer memories. We want to preserve that which has meaning to us.
The purpose, of course, is to honor that which enforces our beliefs, our faiths. We want to capture moments to remind us of what we have accomplished that we are proud of, that repeatedly tell us and others who visit us what we are and what we are working towards.
Look around your own home. What pictures have you framed? Where do they hang? What signs have you decorated with? What symbols are represented overtly or are incorporated into your artwork? Have you looked around lately? And, when was the last time you took something down and put it or threw it away. “That’s just not me any longer,” you think. We celebrate what we believe by those images we keep around us. They are intended to promote continued actions from us, and help remind us to avoid acting to the contrary. These images will come to mind away from home as well, when we are pressed for a decision as we prepare to take an action.
We’ve learned to take this further, and we’ve known, as humans, for some time how we can contemplate an idea and ‘visualize’ ourselves taking actions on our beliefs. Proverbs 4:23 is one source of how ancient this knowledge is; “With all vigilance guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life.” When the Evangelist Mark recorded Jesus’ words “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours,” he was passing on this gift to us for all posterity. Even the secularists recognize this Divine gift. Napoleon Hill wrote in his work “Think and Grow Rich”, “What a man can conceive and believe, he can achieve,” and an entire self-help industry has echoed it for nearly eighty years. Visualizing is prominent this time of year in our culture. We are constantly asking the question of graduates, “What do you want to do?” and “What are your plans?” We are asking them to visualize their futures to the point of articulating them back to us. It is more than a common courtesy, it is asking them to engage in their Divinely given gift of creation.
If we picture what we believe, then, there is one more idea to consider. What happens after we leave this time-tied reality? What is there, if anything, beyond the reality we currently are woven into? Christians believe in Heaven, Hindus in seven of them. Spiritualists believe there is something, but what they are necessarily vague on. Social scientists have recorded the faiths of indigenous peoples, including their prehistory and after-lives. For secular-humanists, this exercise is non-existent.
I will share as a Catholic, here, what I can know of this ‘after’ life. The ‘disciple Jesus loved’ was given a vision of heavenly worship. It is recorded in the Book of Revelation. Where others look at this book as one of death and destruction and await the wrath of God, Catholics can look at it and see, beginning in Chapter 4, that Heaven is a place of worship and engagement with God. John describes for us in words what this heavenly worship looked like to him. Catholic churches reflect this in the designs of the altars where we gather and engage in the action of the New Covenant we’ve received.
If you’d like to see a vision of heaven, of what comes ‘after’, visit your local Catholic church. Ask someone in the office to give you a tour. And, if you are Catholic, or even if you are not, create such a picture in your own home to remind you, to internalize within you, memories and ideas that will come to mind for when you are deciding to take action.
The High Altar in St. Michael the Archangel Church, Findlay OH. The components of John’s vision include ‘the Lamb who appears slain’ (crucifix), the torches, and the angelic hosts in white robes. The ‘throne’ is the tabernacle in the center. Missing from this view is ‘the Book’, which is situated toward the congregation, and the eternal lamp indicating the Presence of God.
Full altar at St. John Neuman parish in Sunbury OH. Components of John’s vision include the “Lamb who appears slain’ in the Eucharist and the cross on the table, the torches (lit candles), and the Book of the Word to the right of the altar, the ‘throne’ is not the Presiders chair, but the tabernacle behind the priest, centered. The heavenly hosts are represented by the paintings and the carved imagery.
Concerning the last segment of the first Republican Presidential debate for 2016, moderated by FoxNews on August 6th, 2015;
Megyn Kelley was one of three ‘moderators’ in what was more a Q & A than a debate between candidates. Before the final break and also introducing the final segment, Ms. Kelley made rather flippant comments concerning whether or not the candidates had received any specific inspiration on what their first actions or priorities should be… from ‘God’, as if to put down anyone with faith in a Supreme Being. It was short comment. It was a curt comment. It rang as loudly as a fire alarm in my ears.
I cannot put words to the candidates’ responses. Some were allowed to comment directly to the question, others were not offered an opportunity. I do have the following to share on this particular topic.
None of the candidates would be on the stage were they not somehow inspired by some higher power. Few would argue that Mr. Trump presents himself from the inspiration of his ego, though I am one who would. All professed some intent to fulfill a patriotic duty to the country. Some invoked their God. Those doing so placed themselves in good company.
You see, our system of laws is built upon a specific Decalogue in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, a Decalogue that is equally respected by our Islamic brothers and sisters. These Ten Commandments provide the foundation for our Constitution and laws of governance and public policies. Social Security and Medicare are largely responses to the 4th of those laws, ‘Honor your father and mother’ through the financial and health support of our elderly citizens. “Thou shalt not kill’ seems a rather pertinent one to this discussion, given the numbers of mass murderers on trial the recent killings so publically promoted by the news media. Baltimore, MD is having a particularly difficult problem this year. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ has been officially ignored by our Supreme Court this past session. ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors’ goods’ is routinely ignored by thieves and prosecuted not quite as frequently, as thieves are difficult to apprehend.
Our founders thought it important to acknowledge a Supreme Being from our beginnings as a nation. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who is ‘their Creator’ if not the God that gave us the Decalogue? To this and the rest of the Declaration of Independence, our representatives closed the document with “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” A reliance on God, Divine Providence, saw most of these men die as traitors or in poverty. What survived was country they dedicated to God.
Is our country dedicated to God from its beginning? It is a fair question. Let me answer it with the ways that used to exhibit our faith in such a beginning.
- From the third stanza of a song sung from the days of the Revolution until only a few years ago in our schools; 3rd stanza of America
- “Our Father’s God, to Thee, Author of Liberty, to Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with Freedom’s holy light. Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King”
- From the War of 1812, from Baltimore harbor, September 15th, 1815, a young lawyer scribbled these words on an envelope; from the 4th stanza of the Star Spangled Banner;
- Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
- Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
- Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
- And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
- From Lincoln’s 1858 ‘House Divided’ speech to the Illinois Republican Convention. He was discussing the Dread Scott decision concerning equal admission of slave states to non-slavery states;
- “In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided.” Mr. Lincoln’s quotations are a direct quote from the Christian gospel, words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in Mark 3:25.
- From Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
- “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
- In 1895, Katherine Lee Bates wrote another song that was, until recently, sung widely and in our schools as well. This is her 1904 chorus revision;
- “America! America!
- God shed his grace on thee
- And crown thy good with brotherhood
- From sea to shining sea!”
- Martin Luther King, Jr, August 28th, 1963, promoting the advancement of equal rights for the Black population of our nation, revived several of these previous examples;
- “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
- – AND-
- “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
- And finally, Mr. King closed with;
- ‘And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The threads of the Decalogue, of the dedication of our country by ‘We, the People’, remain evident in what has become our civil as well as faithful religion in these united States. We are a Nation and a People founded on the Liberty found when laws establish boundaries for behavior. For more than the two-hundred-forty-six years since a Declaration was proclaimed we have bound ourselves to a faith in God. That faith has served us well.
Were the men on that stage last night and those presented in the earlier broadcast by Fox, and the others looking forward to presenting themselves as candidates to tend to our country’s business inspired by God? You should know they were, are, and continue to be, either by their own commitment or by their adherence to the civil religion professed in our public proclamations.
So, please, Ms. Kelley, please provide some modicum of respect when you speak about our God, our Divine Providence, our Creator when you broadcast national events. We are all bound to Divine Providence whether we acknowledge the Creator or not.
Water enveloping me, all around
Gurgling past my ears as I swim
Gurgling behind the boat as I sail
Gurgling around the bubbles express by my dive gear
Gurgling from the Baptismal font
Sounds of the water and air mixing is all I hear.
Water around my eyes erases clear vision
A shield of clear glass restores air to my sight, yet
The seal and shape of the swim goggles limit my view
The dive mask too limits, and splits the view into disjointed panels
Sails hide the field of view ahead
In the font of the Jordan all vision is erased again.
Two senses diminished
I feel the water around me
In the pool and the font heat is pulled out of my body
A dive suit holds some water close, yet the heat still drains away
Aboard the boat the damp air and my sweat wet make my hair lie flat,
And I lose the feel of the wind. Now three senses are gone.
I gladly jump into a pool of water to swim
I yearn for the taste and feel of the water of a dive
I long for the smell and the feel of the wind and its pull on a sail
I commit to the washing of myself with the waters of the font
As I touch my mind, my heart, and cross my shoulders each
Time I leave and return home.
How can I go where my vision is impaired?
How can I find my way in the pool?
What do I trust in that I can swim with in the sea?
What do I know that lets me sail with canvass or steam?
What is this water of the Jordan that I wash in
What does it give me that tap does not?
I am filled with the Water of Life
The Water that formed from the four rivers of Eden
The Water that flowed and collected the Seas
The Water that floated sailors from Noah to Galilee and to the World
The Water that was more than a river when HE stepped into it
The Water of the Spirit offered to us all
The Water that gives Life and the Faith required to
I don’t write poetry very often. I think this is the second in a decade. If there is need of interpretation, I leave it to the reader as they may appreciate. ‘Z’ 1-18-15
This story is an example, rather than a follow on, of one I wrote. Two weeks ago I posted a paper from my college course concerning my model of God. Based on my experiences in my personal relationship with God and what He is allowed me to learn through my life I wrote of how my perceptions of God correlate to the laws of resonance and what resonance means in relation to energy. Here is the story;
Heather is an administrative employee at the nursing home where my mother-in-law has resided for two years. This is her second Christmas season in the home. The home gets a visit from many people during this time of year. All sorts of entertainment volunteers at the home this time of year. I was thinking of something more family oriented, though.
We have enjoyed Christmas caroling together for as long as I can remember. Both our families grew up with music and singing and Christmas brings out a great reason for celebrating through song. Joining my wife’s family, I found her mother played the piano, a baby grand in the front room of their home. One of her aunts and one grandmother had pianos as well. The other grandmother played an organ in her front room. Singing made the houses resound happily. That resonance of music I wanted to share with my mother-in-law just a bit, for just a little while this Christmas season, this Advent. I had not mentioned this to my wife or my father-in-law, but I would check with them when I walked into the room before we began singing.
Earlier in the day, I stopped by my own mother’s house. She holds a Christmas party for us every year and as part of that party we go caroling in her neighborhood. The songs we sing come out of a small four-by-five inch booklet my Dad had brought home in the 1970’s from his office. His company printed them as gift handouts for the salesmen to share with clients. How they stayed in any good shape over the last forty years is a science experiment of its own. My purpose in stopping by was to pick one up and reprint it, making the copy a bit bigger and easier to read. I told Mom I just could not read the small print anymore and in the dark, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with everyone else. “No problem” she said, “Your sister made these full page books up a couple years ago.”
Off I went with two copies of music, one meant for toting about the streets and another that was better suited for on a piano’s music stand. The family wasn’t gathered in mom’s room when I arrived though. I was befuddled at first, and then I remembered last week the conversation about wheeling mom in her chair around to see the decorations set up in the home. I walked around into the next wing to find my wife and her parents listening to a pianist play holiday tunes, encouraging everyone to sing along. I walked in and joined with them.
The pianist asked if there were any requests and one of the patients asked that ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ be played. The pianist apologized and made the comment he would need the music for that song. I presumed he didn’t have any with him but was playing from a very good memory and skill. I left the room to recover the sheet music I had unexpectedly picked up from my Mom’s house. Returning to the room I handed the packet to the pianist’s wife, Heather, offering them if he was interested is using the music. The pianist agreed heartily.
We sang ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’ and many other carols. The original requesting patient was smiling broadly. Heather, to my left, and my wife, to my right, broke into alto harmonies as we continued. We began exercising our choral training and each adjusted their volume and tone to the others naturally. My mother-in-law, stricken almost entirely with Parkinson’s, turned her head in the wheel chair headrest to look in our direction. She was hearing the music!
The afternoon was more a gift then I ever imagined. Some, (ok), many would call it coincidence. The prevalence of singing in nursing homes this time of year is rather high. The probability of an out-of-work pianist related to an employee was playing in this particular nursing home, in this particular wing was increased by the fact that the piano is always in that room. I had already intended to bring music with me. Coincidence after coincidence after coincidence? A secularist, a humanist, a social scientist might state yes, and maybe even a bit amused.
For me, this afternoon was one more in my life’s journey full of such ‘coincidences’. It was one more experience where I saw the movement of the Holy Spirit, the resonant power of God in our world today. There are many reasons to have faith in this God. My reasons come from these types of encounters. More than coincidences, too many to be considered as such, I ‘feel’ resonance come over me and attracted into the situations. Most have been this simple. Some have been more difficult. One or two have been very difficult. A few have been powerfully invigorating. Always I have found peace after, a grace in my heart to strengthen my faith.
Like Elijah in the cave on Mt. Carmel, I hear God in the whisper of a breeze, and I kneel in amazement to worship at the celebration of His Incarnation in the form of a child in a manger. O Come! O Come, Emmanuel! And ransom captive Israel! Come!
Back here in the swampy woods of Ohio, one has to do something to pass the late summer hours. Maybe an idealist like me should never study philosophy, though. After all, in the ‘search for truth’ there are bound to be ideas that are different from those I was schooled in. Someone might actually think they are an idealist, only their concept of ‘ideal’ is the complete antithesis of my own. Just the thought is incredibly disturbing to me so actually reading and trying to comprehend any idea from the ‘question everything’ crowd becomes very difficult.
So it is for me with those in our society who have moved to change history and how it reads by not promoting those things of our heritage that proclaim we are a nation that was once dedicated to Judeo-Christian moral values. Today, professing such values draws the ire of the politically correct police and the wrath and the attention of the legal action arm of the LGBT community. This page is not Bunker and Breed’s Hill in Boston or Fort McHenry at the mouth of Baltimore’s bay. It’s not Antietam or Gettysburg, the Argon Forest, or Bastogne’. It’s more like Fort Findlay and Fort Christmas, little supply depots in the swampy backwaters of our culture wars. What is stocked in this respite’ are some musical lyrics that show where our nation has come from;
America – or, ‘My Country Tis of Thee’ as it is also known is one of the earliest songs spread around our nation. The tune of the song was well known to the Colonials. It is still the anthem of the ‘motherland’, Britain. The second stanza is ‘key’ to these stores, and a supply of it goes out with every shipment;
“Our Fathers’ God, to Thee
Author of Liberty
To Thee We Sing
Long May Our Land Be Bright
With Freedom’s Holy Light
Protect Us By Thy Might
Great God Our King!”
A few years later in the making, during the second War of Independence known as the War of 1812, while held captive aboard a British ship, a young lawyer penned these words about his experience. It’s his forth stanza that expresses the commitment to our holy God, though few know of it and fewer still seem to pass it on;
“O, Thus Be It Ever When Free Men Shall Stand
Between Their Loved Homes and a Wars Desolation.
Blest With Victory and Peace, May This Heaven Rescued Land
Praise the Power That Hath Made and Preserved Us a Nation.
Then Conquer We Must When Our Cause It is Just
And This Be Our Motto ‘In God is Our Trust!’
And the Star-Spangled Banner in Triumph Shall Wave
O’re the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!”
Some forty years later there was another tune that was used to bind us together, even while the nation was trying to tear itself apart. Sung around campfires and in parades, today it is still a mainstay in churches as well as on the streets at Memorial Day and July 4th celebrations. Any verse of this song is useful but I like to set this one in example for the current argument;
“In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!”
“Glory, glory halleluiah!
Glory, glory halleluiah!
Glory, glory halleluiah!
His Truth is marching on!”
This one must be particularly difficult for those promoting a non-deistic foundation for our country. How is it that in the middle of such a horrific conflict men could still be dedicating themselves to God? Not surprising though, that probably because they did, ‘Dixie’ remains a popular tune as well when it comes to musical Americana.
American musical theatre of the early twentieth century did its part in promoting the nationalism of a country that held its arms open to all, it seemed. And among those writing songs was a young man named Erving Berlin. His contribution to the supply of music promoting our Judeo-Christian commitment as a country was this little tune, introduced by a young woman named Kate Smith;
“God Bless America,
Land That I Love.
Stand Beside Her, and Guide Her
Through the Night With the Light From Above.
From the Mountains, to the Prairies, to the Ocean White With Foam,
God Bless America, My Home Sweet Home.
God Bless America, My Home Sweet Home.”
(Note the cameo in this video by a future President)
Mr. Berlin’s little tune was sung during tough times in the late nineteen-thirties and again, publically, by members of the Congress of the United States as their response to the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
First published in 1892, this song continues to be a favorite. Here’s how Ray Charles performs it just over a hundred years later;
“America, America, God Shed His Grace on Thee
And Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood
From Sea to Shining Sea.”
Music is just the area of the God-fearing America I happen to be most familiar with. Our founders, our writers, our screen-writers, our poets have penned and scripted many stories and memories kept safe and available for any of us to tap into when we need to hold fast to faith in the face of the ‘question everything’ crowd that aims to try to change the course we were set on so many years ago. While ‘they’, the philosophical intelligentsia and their media allies work to make the wind blow in their direction, in this little storehouse I’m building and patching up the foundation, so when the troops come back through to counter this current wind there will be plenty of stores for them to avail themselves to. In the meantime, I’m due for another shipment from some guys named Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, and Charlie Daniels.